Assembly Passes Part of 2013 Budget Despite Opposition

Sixty-seven CPP lawmakers on Monday approved the first of three chapters of the government’s 2013 budget despite the protest of 43 opposition CNRP lawmakers, who said reported revenues were inordinately low and called on the government to carry out a transparent audit.

With only 110 of the 123 National Assembly members present for the vote, the first chapter was passed easily by the CPP, but only after an impassioned speech by CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay, the deputy chair of parliament’s banking and finance commission.

Mr. Chhay said the National Audit Authority’s own report on the implementation of the 2013 budget notes revenues had not reached their “potential” in terms of the government’s abilities to collect revenue under existing laws.

The opposition lawmaker also complained of a general lack of transparency in the government’s accounting.

“The Law on Public Finance Systems has clear stipulations but they have not been implemented, especially Article 84…that states the requirement that accounting and financial statements [from government bodies] must be transparent and public in order to track their implementation,” he said.

Mr. Chhay said revenues collected throughout 2013 were too low, but that his commission has had trouble accessing reports on customs collections on the Thailand and Vietnam borders.

He added that the $2.1 million of tax collected on land concessions in 2013 was inordinately low and noted that the Council of Ministers, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, had spent 141 percent of the amount budgeted to it.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who chairs the commission on banking and finance, said Mr. Chhay had no authority to request such an audit and called for parliament to approve the spending as all procedures had been followed.

“I am the chairman of the commission who is responsible before the National Assembly,” he said. “So I insist that we put the draft law, which I have just reported on in detail, for the National Assembly to review, discuss and approve.”

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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the entire 2013 budget was passed on Monday. Only the first of three chapters was approved. 

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